We went for our first homestudy interview today at the adoption agency. It was wonderful, actually; TTD and I always enjoy getting to go for a drive alone together, and the interview itself, which lasted more than two hours, was kind of a perfect mix of information dissemination, couples counseling, and issue raising. We liked our social worker, too: oddly, she grew up around the corner from me, and we went to the same schools! She has two adopted daughters herself, and so can talk about adoption from both personal and professional points of view, and that's helpful. Really, the whole thing was helpful. There's a lot to learn, a lot to think about--and by the way, thank you to those of you who shared something of your own adoption experiences and stories in the comments, and who gave me links to explore.
As you can tell by the vagueness of the above paragraph, I am still taking it all in. It feels right in a very deep-seated way to contemplate bringing our daughter home; it reminds me of the first days after I found out I was pregnant, when I wasn't sick or tired yet and hadn't gotten into the nitty-gritty of buying diapers and cribs, and was nine months away from the sleepless hormonal tsunami of the post-partum days. Those first days of knowing I was pregnant were golden; they let me appreciate the reality of what was happening, unobscured by the exhaustion and daily irritability which usually fog the mirrors of my mind and heart. And right now, I feel the same way (only, you know, the fog is there too, more like a miasma than mist, really, created by two yelling, grinning, popsicle-sticky, farting little boys). The adoption fog will drift in, sifting down from clouds of beauracracy, jet lag, culture shock and family dynamics, but right now the horizen is still clear and I can see an amazing sight: our daughter, out there somewhere (Is she alive now? In utero? Just born?): a child: a PERSON.
In the spirit, I suppose, of "Know then thyself," we did a lot of talking about ourselves in the interview. SSW (Smart Social Worker) started by asking how we arrived at adoption, and we had all kinds of answers for that one, because they pretty much tell you to contemplate that before you come in. We've always wanted to have two children and adopt one, we said: we don't kid ourselves that we can save the world, but we'd like to give one child a home who might not otherwise have one: we would love a daughter and we're through having children ourselves, because we are old and I am not, but not, risking PPD like that again (though it's possible to have it after an adoption, so believe me, the Rescue Plan is already in place for THAT eventuality). We've always wanted a slightly bigger family than just (well, not "just") two children, but see above re: continued procreation. I, Larki, have had several intense experiences of being welcomed and living with families overseas, and I would love my own family to reflect that. We want to hook our hearts into the world in this particular way. But really, honestly, the most important reason is that we just know we're supposed to, and there you have it.
SSW did not seem to find this strange at all: in fact, one of the things I like about her, and about all the other workers I've met at The Agency so far, is this combination of total pragmatism, experienced realism, and openness to mystery. That combination is what I aim for in mothering, and I am reassured to find it reflected in The Agency, and to deal with people who understand when I say, "I don't know, we just suddenly realized this spring that now was the time, and even though there are plenty of reasons we could give (child spacing, our ages, blah blah), the real reason is that both of us felt a strong pull, simultaneously, and knew we had to explore this."
And boy is there a lot to explore. Culture, race, birth mothers, sibling integration, medical background, you name it. We are diligently reading books, of course, and we do a five hour pre-adoption class in July, and we have several more hours of homestudy interviews, followed by an actual study of the home (Note to self; remove hamster droppings from playroom carpet. Also try to get Rabbit and Urplet to stop dropping trou and peeing on whatever bush they happen to be passing when they feel The Call.). The Agency gives us all kinds of contacts for parents who live in our town and already have adopted children, and for parents in the area who have adopted from Ethiopia. For now we are staying mostly clear of the adoption scene on the Internet, because I find it overwhelming and think perhaps it will be more useful when we actually HAVE Little Girl at home with us. But still, all the dutiful, loving preparation in the world can't prepare you.
Much like when you have biokids of your own. In fact, I'm surprised at how many bells rang for me during the interview today, at how many issues seem to be extensions of issues we already deal with with our own children. For instance, the issue of bringing home a child who may turn out to have very, very different interests and very, very different personality traits from TTD and me and our families: that's actually not so different from giving birth to a child who could turn out to be very, very different from us as well. In both cases, we're going to have to, as my mother has always chanted, "Know your child, accept your child, receive your child." (Yes, I have an incredibly good and wise mother). Who IS this person? What does he or she need from me to find and develop her or his passions and talents? What language can I speak that she will hear? What tools does he most need me to hand him or help him uncover on his own? In a lot of ways, the questions are the same for any child I raise. And I find that reassuring, not in a Pollyanna way but more in a, "Hmm, yeah, I've been living this a bit already," way.
Then there's the issue of walking with your child through her pain. In an adopted child's case, there seem to be some obvious areas which could prove painful: racial differences from the community in which she's raised, racial differences from US, the whole issue of having birth parents who she may never have known and, if she's an orphan, will never know. The issue of difference, period. And yet, in other ways, difference will crop up in Rabbit's life and in Urplet's life, and will prove painful as well, and I suppose learning to walk through it with them will help me walk with my daughter through whatever pain awaits her, too.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not minimizing the particular problems and difficulties an adopted child faces, particularly a child from another country. But I am oddly encouraged to realize that the problems and challenges are often extensions of the ones every child faces, and that in some ways TTD and I have already begun to deal with them in the course of being Rabbit's parents (because he's the oldest and the most like, you know, a person). But of course, let us remember that there are challenges I cannot even imagine now, things will hit me over the head and stun me: let us not forget that, please. Feel free to remind me of it, in fact.
Still, nothing can change the fact that I feel a deep, glowing delight at starting this journey, and it feels exactly like the deep, glowing delight I felt when the lines on the stick turned pink. Only without the bloating, barfing, constipation, weight gain, insomnia, sciatica, headaches, and hemorrhoids.
Now...from the sublime to the automotive...we picked up the Mini today! Oh, how it is cute! So much with the cuteness! And the smallness! And the black racing stripes, the chrome trim, the navy leather seats with "burnt orange" stitching, the cute little driving lights, the cloth top which folds down and makes me want to wear sunglasses and tie a scarf over my hair and turn into Faye Dunaway or somebody! It's all good. And fun to drive, so tight on the corners and so very, very unlike the dear, middle-aged minivan. Neither TTD nor I have ever, in all our lives, come anywhere near doing something as extravagant as this, and we are totally bemused and delighted. Idiots, but happy idiots in a convertible.